Unexpected Learning

In the course of their careers, actors get to experience a wonderfully eclectic range of characters and human behaviors.  We investigate the way people think and act, and have the often-daunting task of giving life to a character who seems light years away from our own understanding and experience of life. Continue reading “Unexpected Learning”

As You Like It – a daily rehearsal and performance log on Tumblr

An image a day and a tweet or quote a day to sum up the passage of the next 10 weeks as I rehearse and perform in La Boite Theatre Company’s production of As You Like It by William Shakespeare. I get to play Duke Senior, father to Rosalind. This should be fun and a huge challenge – the best kind! Words probably won’t do it justice, so maybe an image or something brief and to the point that sums up the moment … Twitter is just fine for that. Continue reading “As You Like It – a daily rehearsal and performance log on Tumblr”

Notes on the freelance life: voice work

Go Right
Image by Dramagirl via Flickr

Yesterday was hardly typical, and it was memorable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I had three freelance jobs that took me cross-town a couple of times through pouring rain and crazy traffic; Brisbane doesn’t respond well to the wet. The second was a confirmation (if I needed it) at day’s end that the business of voice and acting is not nearly as complicated as so many would have it. The workshop I did with a group of Year 12 Drama students at 8.30 that morning paralleled the voice-coaching work I did with a Hollywood actor later that afternoon. Both sessions came down to getting the whole body involved in realising thought and then connecting – fully and truthfully – on breath and through word … what else is there?

The other job yesterday was a screen test for a television commercial. Somewhere around lunchtime I found myself sitting in one of those hired waiting rooms in the suburbs with a whole lot of other hopefuls. I was reminded again as we sat there how important relaxation is to the business of auditioning – the least fair part of acting, as someone once said. Watching that room of actors was an object lesson in itself; some worked their phones, others listened to music, some stared into the middle distance. The tension was palpable.

My take on all this … I really believe that relaxation is almost impossible unless the actor possesses the mental freedom that comes from confidence. Confidence in turn, comes from knowing you are as prepared as you can be. Where that comes from takes us back to basics – realising thought and connecting, fully and truthfully on breath and through word – having the craft skills or a process to work from.

Still waiting for the results of the screen test … as always, no point in deliberating … moving right along. It was a chance to perform, to network, to extend experience in the business … the job would be bonus.

Quote of the Day: on the actor’s preparation

Read the whole article from Andrew Utter at the Mother of Invention Acting School blog.  The post is a review of a new book on acting by Howard Fine: Fine on Acting – A Vision of the Craft.

* “Your central responsibility as actors is to affect and to be affected by, that is your job.  You must affect someone else, and you must be affected by them.  Any choices you make that disallow that exchange have taken you down a dead-end.”

* “You must have a body that is responsive to you, that is flexible, and you must start to develop yourself physically to be a great actor.  All forms of dance training, martial arts, yoga and especially the Alexander Teachnique are excellent.”

* “The first common mistake that will lead you down a very bad path is judging the character.”

* “Writers are not writing about someone’s mundane life.  They’re writing about the important moments.  When you look at a scene and you don’t see the crisis that character is in, you have taken out what is actable in the scene.”

* “So much is made of the differences between stage acting and television and film acting.  I like to say to my students,  “Would you study the violin for film? Would you learn how to play football for television?”  Of course not, that would be ludicrous.  You learn how to play the violin.  You learn how to play football. You learn how to act.  You learn the craft itself.

* “The goal of preparation is spontaneous life.”

* “A developed mind is part of what will become your range as an actor, which means you have to develop your intellect formally through education, or you have to find a way to do it on your own.  How will you understand what’s going on in a scene, if you have not developed your ability to think?”

Lines-learning just got cooler: another tool for iPhone toting actors


I’m not all that keen on the name of this handy little iPhone app: ‘Hollywood Helper – Broadway Buddy’ – yuk!   ‘Lines Coach’ is plain, but it might well have served for an application that helps you to learn lines without your script, and which also understands how most actors work with pencil and paper.  HH/BB also takes a familar approach to lines-learning as action through intention. Despite my quibbles on the name, I like it very much and suspect that an acting coach worked with the developers to bring it to the iPhone.  The nice people who make this little iPhone app thought I might like to take it for a spin, and so I did. Here’s my take on it, with a recommendation.

HH/BB downloads as do all iPhone apps directly from the iTunes Store. It’s free – that’s the first of the nice things about it. It comes pre-loaded with Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ as a .txt file so you can play around for a while to get used to the features. When the time comes to upload the script you’re working on you will need to convert the pages of your script to .txt format, presumably by scanning them or converting from another digital file format like .doc. This is easily done on your computer. Uploading is done via WiFi. Detailed instructions are here.

Once you upload, the way you use the app is straightforward and fairly intuitive.  Check the screen shots above.  The home screen contains two clickable buttons ‘Script’ and ‘Setup.’  You will want to click on Setup and choose the character to rehearse by typing in the name. HH/BB will ask you whether you want to search for the name as ‘ALL CAPS’ or ‘as-is.’  ALLCAPS is the default formatting of character in most scripts, while ‘as is’ would reference any mentions of the name.  This could be handy if you wish to see what other characters are saying about you, or to find your character mentioned in any stage directions, or, of course if your character is not referenced in block caps.

You then choose to work in Learn or Rehearse mode.  In Learn, you get the pages of the script with your character’s lines highlighted; in Rehearse, your character’s lines are blocked out but you can see the rest.  You tap on the blocked section for a ‘hint’ – a word, phrase etc., similar to the way a good DSM will shout out a key phrase to jog an actor when s/he is off book.

The Setup screen also has a myVerbs clickable button that gives you a preloaded alphabetical listing of verbs.   You can add as many as you like to the list.   Verbs is a very useful feature for actors who like to think in terms of their lines as action-playing.  Look at a lot of actors’ scripts and you will often see a verb in the margin e.g., ‘assert’ or ‘blame.’ This feature comes in handy when you are working on script – HH/BB replicates this feature – more on this below.

There are a couple of other buttons on the home screen for Setup: ‘jump to start of script’ or ‘end of script’. This is useful if you have an entire playtext loaded up. Of course, the screens scroll as you would expect on an iPhone. The other button is ‘Change Script’ – if you are working on a couple of scripts, for example, and want to switch.

Now you’re set up you can tap on ‘Script’ on the home screen and start learning or rehearsing.

Two excellent little features in both modes are the ‘prev’ and ‘next’ buttons which appear in the right margin of the screen – tapping either of these takes you to the next or previous bit of text for your character. The other really useful feature is the ‘subtxt’ button. Tap ‘subtxt’ and a green box opens up; tap this and the iPhone keyboard appears. You can now type in a phrase to summarise or perhaps to paraphrase a piece of text. Tap the mainscreen when finished and the keyboard disappears; the subtext remains. Nice! Actors familiar with Jack Poggi’s approach to text-learning in The Monologue Workshop will find this useful. Type in the summary phrase or word for the text using subtxt. By then using the prev and next features you can scroll through the script and get an outline of the ‘spine’ of the scene’s action – really helpful as part of the lines/action learning in a scene.

You will also see the ‘verb’ button in the screen’s right margin. Tap this and your listing of verbs appears. Scroll to select the one that fits your chosen action-intention for the particular piece of text, tap it, save and it will appear in red the text margin, as it might if you had written it in to your script. You can, of course, change it later on as you work on and refine your lines-learning.

HH/BB is very useful, very portable, and just the thing to show how terribly, terribly cool you are in the rehearsal room, on the bus, over coffee etc. Both thumbs up.